Ari’s recent posting on pu-pu platter conjectures on the possibility that the kapre of Tagalog mythology — described, at least when I was growing up, as a cigar-smoking, gaunt figure of frightening appearance, living in balete trees — and the cafre, or African slaves brought over to the Philippines by the Portuguese. Fanciful, he calls it (and I agree), but not necessarily: racial imagination gone wild has, after all, conjured up images of Filipinos as monkeys without tails and Jews having horns under their yarmulkes.

This suddenly reminds me of the ancient (and to my childhood eyes, unbelievably tall) mango tree that used to stand by our old gate in my childhood home in Los Banos. Living memory (at least among interviews my father made with LB oldtimers) pegged its age around the turn of the century and, despite my arboreal ignorance, I have no reason to doubt it. But there were apparently various stories about the tree, with people claiming to see balls of fire swirling around it, or mysterious bonfires at the foot of the tree (this I did see once), or a dwende living near it, or, most popularly, a kapre actually living in the tree. Some neighbors (or at least their grandparents) would apparently ask for permission (“Nakikiraan po“) before passing by the tree. Indeed, sometime in the late ’70s, the newspaper delivery kid would keep delivering our newspaper (by mistake, he said) to a woman in a white flowing gown who would be standing by the tree early in the morning.

At some point in the mid-’80s my father wanted the mango tree cut down — or, at least, some of its thick branches, which were hanging perilously over the greenhouse and the plants he sold. No one in town wanted to touch it at all, and the only person he could find lived several kilometers away in San Pablo. The treecutter kept having problems with his treesaw, which either wouldn’t start or wouldn’t cut the tree at all; next, he started complaining about a sudden pain in his neck; and, scariest of all, he died mysteriously (I am not making this up) a couple of months later. My father simply let the mango tree be, until lightning finally hit it in the late ’80s and it caught fire. All that is left of it now is a burned-out, 5-foot high trunk.


The best albums I heard in 2001.

Every year I post a list of my favorites; this year’s list is a little late.


Kwela lang po.

Something forwarded from my brother.

Dear Son,

Medyo mabagal akong magsulat ngayon dahil alam ko na mabagal kang magbasa.

Nandito na kami sa probinsya para tirahan ang bagong bili na bahay pero hindi ko maibibigay sa iyo ang address dahil dinala ng dating nakatira ang number para daw hindi na sila magpapalit ng address.

Maganda ang lugar na ito at malayo sa Manila. Dalawang beses lang umulan sa linggong ito, tatlong araw noong una at apat na araw naman nung pangalawa.

Nakakainis lang ang mga paninda dito katulad na nabili kong shampoo dahil ayaw bumula. Nakasulat kasi sa labas ay FOR DRY HAIR kaya hindi ko binabasa ang buhok ko pag ginagamit ko. Mamaya ay ibabalik ko sa tindahan at magrereklamo ako.

Noong isang araw naman ay hindi ako makapasok sa bahay dahil ayaw bumukas ang padlock. Nakasulat kasi ay YALE, aba eh namalat na ako sa kakasigaw ay hindi pa din bumubukas. Magrereklamo din ako dun sa nagbenta ng bahay, akala nila ay hindi ko alam na SIGAW ang tagalog ng YALE, wise yata ito!

Mayroon nga pala akong nabili dito na magandang Jacket at tiyak na magugustuhan mo. Ipinadala ko na sa iyo sa DHL, medyo mahal daw dahil mabigat ang mga butones kaya ang ginawa ko ay tinanggal ko na lang ang mga butones at inilagay ko sa mga bulsa. Ikabit mo na lang pagdating diyan.

Nagpadala na din ako ng tseke para sa mga nasalanta ng bagyo, hindi ko na pinirmahan dahil gusto kong maging anonymous donor.

Ang kapatid mo nga palang si Jude ay may trabaho na dito, mayroon siyang 500 na tao na under sa kanya. Nag-gugupit siya ngayon ng damo sa Memorial Park, okey naman ang kita above minimum ang sahod.

Wala na akong masyadong balita. Sumulat ka na lang ng madalas.

Love, Papa

P.S. Maglalagay sana ako ng pera kaya lang ay naisara ko na ang envelope. Next time na lang ha?


Da quiz.

Dahil nga sa aking katamaran — at mula sa tsismisan at kung anu-anong kagaguhan with my besman, ang Ginoong Romeo “Jun-Jun” Alfredo “Sulpicio” C. Quintana — napagisipan kong mag-umpisa nang isang tribya quiz. Or, to cite its original title, The Pinoy Pop Culture Trivia Quiz.

Sinimulan ko ito noong Abril 1997, along with advance notice sa soc.culture.filipino, with the following questions:

1. In the Hotdog song, “Pers Lab,” where exactly on Ella del Rosario’s face could pimples be found?

2. Who played the policewoman Emma Henry in the film about Emma Henry?

3. Who was the woman in the Shell commercial that later starred in “Ang Boyfriend Kong Mamaw?”

4. What do the letters T.O.D.A.S. stand for?

Pito lang ang aking contestant noon, pero ito’y lumaki at lumaki hanggang naging mahigit na sinkwenta sa isang linggo. Naubusan ako nang oras — masyadong mahirap mag-tally nang mga sagot, much more mag-isip nang maitatanong! — and so the quiz died a much-mourned death on May 17, 1998. It’s only been over a year, but that year proved to be one of the most enjoyable ones I’ve had on the net, with da eksepsyon op my kontrobersiyal site, The Wit and Wisdom of Imelda Marcos. Halatang-halata na ang mga tanong ay galing lamang sa mga taong ako’y nabubuhay (at nakatira sa Pilipinas), from circa 1970 hanggang 1990.

(Totoo bang nagkatuluyan si Camilla at si Gino A. sa inyong long-distance romance dahil sa quiz mismo, o wishful thinking lang ba ito on my part? Maitanong nga sa UPRHS mailing list…) Nadagdagan ito nang mga pangalan nang tao from whom I haven’t heard in a long time — si Boyong V., Cito S., Jun B., Tatie A., Cecile M., Alex G., Bambam Q., Mario S., Johanns F. and more, not counting my old high school classmates (Waldo, Asa (alyas Mr. Tabinga), Alice, Jenny, Mia, atbp.).

At least two people have written and asked if they could include my quiz questions on some university org quiz contest (meron pang isa na gagamitin daw sa TV); another person wrote and asked if they could publish the questions in book form. Someone spotted the url mentioned in the Philippine version of Cosmopolitan, and another saying that the questions were used (without my permission, of course) on trivia flash cards that were actually marketed. (Putang ina, nagalit ako talaga noon. Kita na nilang labor of love ito, tapos peperahan nila yung pagod ko?)

Pa-minsan-minsan meron akong editorial comment, kagaya noong tanong ko na iisa lang ang nakasagot: “The brutal torture and slaying of Kilusang Mayo Uno / Partido ng Bayan leader Rolando Olalia in November 1986 was one of too many signs that the Aquino government was following its predecessor’s footsteps. Who was the man abducted and killed along with Olalia? At ang sagot: “Olalia’s companion was Leonor Alay-ay; may their names live on as more than mere answers in a trivia quiz! A few months later twenty-one people would be killed during the Mendiola Massacre.” O meron akong mahabang diskurso tungkol sa rise of the Manila yuppie at CityLite 88.3 (baka i-publish ko later).

Or I would have something completely off-the wall:

1. You are standing on a beach when a woman on a white horse, in a red bikini (the woman, not the horse) starts coming towards you from nowhere. She is holding a bottle in one hand, and wordlessly hands it to you. What does the label on the bottle say?

Sagot: The woman waves goodbye as she gets back on her horse and rides up the beach. Speechless, you look at the bottle now in your hand. “White Castle Whisky,” you read aloud to yourself. You shake your head, pondering the significance of what had just happened. You open the cap and tip the bottle to your lips. The horse and her rider disappear off into the distance. You can barely make her out, the woman shimmering in the heat.

In any case, check it out! Kung ganahan ako, baka umpisahan ko ulit! (I still get about a dozen e-mail messages a month asking about whether the quiz would return.)


Crime in the city

My little obsession for today: San Francisco crime statistics. Since we’re thinking of moving at some point, I’ve been checking crime rates in different parts of the city. Alas, one property we kind of like boasted 13 robberies this year — probably having to do with the two liquor stores at the corner. Breaking into cars, as I’ve long noticed (my poor car is still without stereo and speakers), is quite rampant in our “plot;” there was a time about a couple of years ago when I would walk Shelby around the block in the morning and find a vehicle with the rear triangular window broken every week. So the neighborhood we live in has had 46 crimes so far this year, including (yeesh) two rapes, 13 car thefts and 11 burglaries.

I suppose it’s a big trade-off: buy a desirable house in a marginal neighborhood (and get worried every time I walk Shelby at night, not to mention worrying about Madeline and Izzy), or one of those rather boring Doelger houses that you see in the Sunset down to the Westlake District in Daly City. But then we’ve lived in our neighborhood for a little over five years, and (with fingers crossed) haven’t been the victim of anything major (except for my poor car cd player and speakers).